In 2000 Kevin had a call from Joe Broughton asking if he would like to meet up for a play. “I remember meeting Joe at a Whippersnapper gig at Burnley Mechanics – I think he was 14 then. At the end I was talking to him and his older brother (guitarist) Ben, and Joe said… Read more »
Posts By: Jude Abbott
When the duo with Chris Leslie ended, (Chris joined Fairport Convention) it was the mid 1990’s and Kevin got together a duo with Dave Swarbrick, which they called Cofa. They toured the UK and Europe until 1999 when Dave became ill on the return journey from an Austrian tour. He suffered respiratory failure and it… Read more »
In 1981 Kevin had a phone call from the manager of a vocal Soul group called Delegation. They needed musicians for a two week tour of Nigeria and, up for any new experiences, Kevin agreed – certainly one he’ll never forget! In 1983 the already almost legendary fiddle player Dave Swarbrick left Fairport Convention to… Read more »
By 1970 Kevin had teamed up with Dave Cooper, another Coventry guitarist, to form their first band, Dando Shaft. After recruiting multi instrumentalist Martin Jenkins, Roger Bullen on bass and Ted Kay on percussion, they produced, An Evening with Dando Shaft. It was the first album of four they were to make. Kevin was writing… Read more »
In 2000 Kevin had a call from Joe Broughton asking if he would like to meet up for a play.
“I remember meeting Joe at a Whippersnapper gig at Burnley Mechanics – I think he was 14 then. At the end I was talking to him and his older brother (guitarist) Ben, and Joe said that he had been playing violin since he was five years old. I borrowed Chris Leslie’s fiddle and asked Joe to play something for us. I couldn’t believe it, he was truly amazing!”
In 2000, as Dempsey / Broughton, Kevin and Joe made an album, Every Other World, but it wasn’t until Joe left the Albion Band in 2003 that they started touring full time, taking Folk / World music around UK, USA and Europe. The second album, Freehand, was released in 2004. Although over subsequent years they have followed different paths, they still slip easily back into working together. They have released their third album Off By Heart and have established an annual tour each February.
Whilst working with Joe, Kev also joined forces with two long term friends Tom Leary (Little Johnny England, Humble Pie) and Peter Knight (Steeleye Span) to form the trio Tanna. Kevin had done some writing and recording for Tom in the past but had never worked with Peter.
“Three old blokes together – it was great fun!”
In the first half of 2000, Martin Wyndham Reid (Song Links Project) was running residential music courses at his house in France, engaging different musicians to teach each week. By then Kevin was a well established summer school tutor and Joe Broughton was teaching at Birmingham Conservatoire. When Martin retired, Kevin and Joe moved on to Creative Vacances in the delightful La Moreau, where they continue to teach for a week each summer.
Throughout Kevin’s career musicians have called him to join them knowing that his exceptional musical versatility enables him to fit into and enhance their sound. Mary Black was another of those who phoned Kevin out of the blue in 2004. Her regular guitarist was temporarily working elsewhere so, as a one tour deal, Kevin stepped in for a series of gigs in America.
“Mary had heard a track called Once I Loved that I’d recorded with Joe Broughton on our second album Freehand. She wanted to sing it as a duet, so every night of the tour I had the pleasure of singing that song with Mary.”
Whilst teaching at Folkworks in 2005, Kevin met young fiddle player Anna Esslemont who had recently started working with Irish percussionist Cormac Byrne in a duo they called Uiscedwr. As ever, eager to support young musicians, Kevin agreed to play a few gigs, but actually stayed for four years and went on to make an album called Circle.
1990’s – Dave Swarbrick
When the duo with Chris Leslie ended, (Chris joined Fairport Convention) it was the mid 1990’s and Kevin got together a duo with Dave Swarbrick, which they called Cofa. They toured the UK and Europe until 1999 when Dave became ill on the return journey from an Austrian tour. He suffered respiratory failure and it became the beginning of health problems over several years. Kevin helped care for him on a daily basis as they lived near to each other in Coventry.
“It was a very intense few years with Swarb, trying to keep his spirits up when he struggled to even pick up the violin.”
After a lung transplant Dave recovered and along with Maart Allcock, they set up Lazarus in 2006.
“This helped Dave to get back out there after a long absence.”
Over his years working in bands, Kev had sporadically taken time out to teach guitar and song writing to a few people in one to one sessions or small groups. Then in 1990 Kevin had a call from Folkworks asking if he would be interested in teaching guitar at their annual residential summer school in Durham.
“I was a bit apprehensive beforehand, but it turned out well and I really loved it.”
He continues to teach there and at Halsway Manor in Devon, a similar summer school set up, and also at Cincinnati Centre for Performing Arts in the US. Kevin’s collection of Folk song books from UK, USA, Europe and Africa gives him a wide knowledge of tunes and songs to play around with and arrange in his unique style. This brings an exciting and unusual aspect to his teaching, inspiring both adults and young people; his calm friendly manner making him a favourite tutor.
1980’s – Whippersnapper and beyond
In 1981 Kevin had a phone call from the manager of a vocal Soul group called Delegation. They needed musicians for a two week tour of Nigeria and, up for any new experiences, Kevin agreed – certainly one he’ll never forget!
In 1983 the already almost legendary fiddle player Dave Swarbrick left Fairport Convention to form a new acoustic band, Whippersnapper, and asked Kevin to join him. He was reunited with old friend Martin Jenkins, now playing mandocello. Since Dando Shaft, Martin had played with Hedgehog Pie, Matthews Southern Comfort and Bert Jansch. The fourth member Chris Leslie’s background was as a musical instrument maker, but joined the band playing fiddle and mandolin.
Whippersnapper was described as Progressive Folk (depending on which reviews you read) but all four members were very accomplished and experienced musicians, and to some fans the band was thought of as a Folk Supergroup. In their time together they toured extensively, visiting Europe, USA and the Far East, as well as every corner of the UK.
They released four albums; Promises in 1985 followed by Tsubo in 1987. These Foolish Strings was a compilation of live recordings and produced in 1988, and the final one, Fortune, at the end of 1989. At about the same time, Dave Swarbrick left the band to work with Martin Carthy and subsequently with Roy Bailey’s Band of Hope.
Whippersnapper continued as a trio until 1995 when Martin was preparing to move to Bulgaria. But that wasn’t the last to be heard of Whippersnapper as they reformed to tour in 2008 and 2009.
Kevin and Chris Leslie continued to work as a duo and released an album, Always with You in 1996. A few years later, Kevin bumped into Mike Harding (Radio 2) who told him that this was one of his all time favourite albums.
“When playing with Chris I mainly used an Armstrong guitar – a beauty! Sometimes I changed to a Takamine Jazz Limited Edition that I’d fitted with a midi pick-up, enabling me to play some pads and samples.”
In 1987, whilst still with Whippersnapper, Kevin was offered a solo tour of Italy by Gigi Bresciani who was a big fan and also a booking agent. The tour was a success and the partnership still exists today. The solo performances grew between and around the collaborative work, are very popular and take up a lot of Kevin’s current time.
1970’s – London, India and LA
By 1970 Kevin had teamed up with Dave Cooper, another Coventry guitarist, to form their first band, Dando Shaft. After recruiting multi instrumentalist Martin Jenkins, Roger Bullen on bass and Ted Kay on percussion, they produced, An Evening with Dando Shaft. It was the first album of four they were to make. Kevin was writing music and lyrics, not realising that his singing voice would be something that would be really special and unusual. After that first album they decided to add a female voice. Kevin says:
“There was only one choice – Polly Bolton.”
From the mid 1960’s Polly had been working with June Tabor, singing around folk clubs, and later went on to join the Albion Band.
Dando moved to London, and Kevin, whose guitar playing was becoming recognised, was asked to join the Anand Band to add another guitar to that of John Pring.
They toured India and played in the huge Ram Lila Ground in Delhi,but by 1973 Kevin had moved to a big band, Blue Aquarius. They toured America including gigs in a number of prisons in Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma and New Mexico. The whole band settled in Houston for a year before on moving to Los Angeles.
Still working with Blue Aquarius, Kevin was asked to play some gigs with Los Bohemios, a fantastically energetic Latin American group with Knud Jensen.
“It was incredible to get some experience with Latin music – stuff like Sambas and Montunos that I’d never played before.”
Around 1974 multi instrumentalist Alice Coltrane was living in L.A. and became familiar with Blue Aquarius.
“Alice enjoyed bringing her arrangements and compositions to an existing big band.”
And the fast pace didn’t stop! The next change was to a Motown sound when Kevin accepted a job in the band for the UK/Europe tour of Percy Sledge. He was hankering for home and this provided the opportunity. Later on Kevin did a similar tour with the Marvellettes.
By 1977 Kevin was established back in the UK touring Folk clubs with Polly Bolton. The year after, Kevin joined Side Effect alongside Paul Brook on drums, who he knew from the Percy Sledge tour. Kevin and Paul both soon moved on to another jazz/funk band Pzazz with Steve Tatum on sax, bass Mark Yates and keyboard player Mark Steeds.
“They needed a guitarist and asked me. Great musicians! I was playing a Gibson ES295 at the time that I’d bought from Alex’s Guitar Shop in New York.”
If you search really hard you can still find a YouTube clip of Pzazz in 1980 – including a moustachioed KD!